Cobra to Celebrate Cocktail Culture, Late-Night Fare on South High

The new Brewery District bar from four Watershed Kitchen & Bar alums will showcase approachable cocktails and Taiwanese/Japanese-inspired fare.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Cobra's founders include, left to right, Josh Spiers, Jack Dale Bennett Jr., David Yee and Alex Chien, all Watershed Kitchen & Bar alums

Commercial real estate in Columbus can make for odd bedfellows. The building at 684 S. High St. which once housed The Clarmont, a beloved spot for steak and cocktails for 65 years, was later gutted and turned into a Panera Bread. The sandwich chain closed last year. Soon filling the 5,200-square-foot space will be a new bar and late-night eats spot called Cobra, operated by four friends and industry veterans: Jack Dale Bennett Jr., Alex Chien, Josh Spiers and David Yee, all Watershed Kitchen & Bar alums. 

The neighborhood bar, which is expected to open by early December, will seat 105 indoors. The bar’s patio, which runs the length of the building next to the parking lot, will be partially enclosed and seat another 125 when it opens in the spring. 

Cobra’s four majority owners offer a wealth of culinary and cocktail experience between them. Spiers and Yee both bartended at Oddfellows Liquor Bar. Chien was the opening beverage director when Watershed opened its distillery restaurant in 2017. Yee, who holds a master’s in fine arts in creative writing from Ohio State (and contributed an essay to Columbus Monthly on bartending during COVID), recently finished up his own stint as beverage director at Watershed, working alongside Spiers. Chien and Yee were both national finalists in Bombay Saphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition in separate years, with Chien going on to become a national brand ambassador for Bombay Sapphire.  

On the culinary side, chef Bennett was an opening sous chef at Watershed before moving on to San Morello in Detroit’s Shinola Hotel and, most recently, Saddleberk in North Market Bridge Park. In recent years, all four of the business partners took part in a cocktail pop-up called All Due Respect; the lively pop-up is where ideas for Cobra and several other potential concepts were honed. 

“We love cocktail culture. We want people to be able to experience really delicious drinks without breaking the bank,” Chien says, adding that laid-back bars like New York’s Katana Kitten provided inspiration for Cobra. “Just that izakaya or neighborhood bar aspect where it feels like Cheers. It was the first [U.S.] bar that made me feel like home back in Taiwan.” 

In addition to a cocktail list inspired by Asian cuisine and ingredients, the bar plans to offer Taiwan Beer, a large-format lager that's iconic in Taiwanese culture, and a rotation of 10 beers on draft. Wine bottles and a small by-the-glass wine menu will be available, plus a full back bar. “We don't want to be seen as a cocktail bar,” Yee explains. “We want to be a neighborhood bar that has exceptional cocktails.” 

Cobra aims to cater to a variety of budgets, with cocktails ranging from $8-$14. “We are focused on volume service,” Yee says. “For us, the lower we can keep the price the better, because we want to be approachable, we want to be inclusive, and a lot of cocktail pricing is not inclusive.” 

The Cobra team are bringing back something that has been almost totally snuffed out by the pandemic: late-night food. The bar will be open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. six days to start, with the last call for food around 1:45 a.m.   

Bennett, whose wheelhouse has been handmade pasta, will execute a menu of regional Asian dishes—focusing on Japanese/Taiwanese fare—with a particular emphasis on handmade noodles and dumplings. (Accompanying the dumplings will be a Taiwanese dumpling sauce from Chien’s mother. “The world's best dumpling sauce,” he says.)  

Keeping in line with the bar’s “high-low” vibe, Cobra will serve steak prepared on the open kitchen's live-fire yakitori grills. “That will add so much to the atmosphere,” Bennett says. “As a nod to The Clarmont, we will have a dry-aged steak program, yakitori-style.” 

With so much space to play with, including a large parking lot, the owners anticipate hosting several events like night markets, Chinese New Year celebrations and even collaborations with like-minded neighbors down the street.  

Indeed, the stretch of South High that Cobra is joining, between Sycamore and Columbus streets, has become one of the most dynamic food and drink districts in the city. When Cobra opens, the bar will be steps away from The Daily Growler, Tremont Lounge, Antiques on High, Agni (the forthcoming restaurant from Avishar Barua), Chocolate Café Express, Law Bird and Emmett’s Café. 

You can catch a pop-up preview of Cobra on Monday, Oct. 24, at Seventh Son Brewing Co. (1101 N. Fourth St.) from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. 

[Editor's Note: A previous version of the story had an error in Cobra's address. The address has been updated.]